Maybe it's wrong for a video game reviewer to admit that he has no idea what is going on while playing a game but that is exactly what I am going to say about Fighting Steel: World War II Surface Combat 1939 - 1942. The game's packaging and manual really try to push the myth that Fighting Steel is an excellent hybrid of a war simulation and a war game. It's not. I do not know what Fighting Steel is but it is not fun.
Visually, Fighting Steel is stunning. The 3D environments and ships are so realistic that it almost looks like wartime film footage. The dozens of camera angles can really put players into the game and the sights of guns blazing and torpedoes speeding in the dark of night are some of the most breathtaking images I have seen in a PC game. It is really too bad that developers waste all of this beauty on a game that offers almost no control to the player.
I also give Fighting Steel's developers credit for creating a sound experience that puts most other war games to shame. The blasting of guns, the crash of ocean waves and the ripping of metal hulls create a mesmerizing blanket of sound that can surround you. Again, it seems as though developers put too much effort into the aesthetic aspects of Fighting Steel and not enough effort was made to ensure that gamers would actually enjoy playing the game.
Fighting Steel is simply not enjoyable. Honestly, it's barely controllable. I played this game for hours and had no idea what was going on. I read the manual from cover to cover in an attempt to figure out what the goal of Fighting Steel was and how to achieve it. I never figured it out.
I realize that many simulations require gamers to take a step back from the action and act as an omnipotent god, watching the game unfold as other characters take part in the carnage. Most simulations that I have played, however, allow the gamer at least to have direct control over different characters. In Fighting Steel, you tell your ships to fire at a target and they choose to do it or they choose not to. You can set your division's firing mode to fire at the closest target, to fire at the most threatening target or to fire at specific targets. Sometimes, your ships obey those commands and other times they sit there doing nothing, even if there is only one target in the entire scenario.
I tried several different scenarios and both game modes. Each scenario played out the same way. The enemy ships occasionally fire at your ship or ships and your ship or ships occasionally fire back. After several hours, the computer declares someone the winner. It is all very confusing.
Perhaps I am missing something important in the playing of Fighting Steel. I truly wish I knew what that thing was. I could select weapons, targets and firing modes but I was never able to really be in control of a naval battle. Since that is what Fighting Steel is all about, I have to give it a big thumbs down.
Basically, Fighting Steel is like a Corvette with a great stereo but no engine. It looks and sounds great but forget about going anywhere.
Graphics: Fighting Steel's 3D graphics are impeccable. The visual presentation is truly great.
Sound: The game's sound is incredible. The blasting of weapons and the crashing of waves is engulfing.
Enjoyment: The total lack of control in this game makes it nearly impossible to play and enjoy. Forget about simply aiming and shooting. Get ready to click on a series of confusing icons.
Replay Value: Despite dozens of scanrios and a scenario editor, this game will collect dust in your CD caddy because of all of its flaws.
People who downloaded Fighting Steel have also downloaded:
Great Naval Battles 5, Great Naval Battles 1, Jutland, Great Naval Battles 2: Guadalcanal, Great Naval Battles 3, Great Naval Battles 4, Destroyer Command, Battle of Britain (from TalonSoft)
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